Time ran out for the tenants of the Bergmann Hotel Friday afternoon, as Juneau police officers escorted them out of the building, which had been classified as unsafe for human occupancy.
Many tenants, even those who were aware that the city had posted a 24-hour notice the day before, were in disbelief as they hauled their belongings down the stairs or — in one case — tossed them from the third-story fire exit into the bed of a pickup truck below.
“It’s cold as hell out there,” said James Cole, who had just paid his rent the day before. “It’s a bad time to be kicking people out. … The Bergmann is all we’ve got. Now we’ve got nowhere to go.”
Chris Clark said he couldn’t go to The Glory Hole because of his drinking.
“If you ask me to surrender my bottle, then good luck,” he said. “I’m a drunk. … I don’t have anyplace to go.”
By 5 p.m., Clark had collapsed just inside the lobby and police arranged for him to be picked by Rainforest Recovery.
Manager Charles Cotten was led away in handcuffs for failing to abide by the notice, which mandated that the violations be corrected or the building vacated by 4 p.m.
“It was his responsibility,” said Juneau Police Department Chief Bryce Johnson. “He was supposed to have the place safe, or everyone out.”
The more than century-old historic hotel was condemned after the building owners, Kathleen and James Barrett, failed to address outstanding fire and building code violations, putting tenants in imminent danger, city spokeswoman Lisa Phu said in a press release.
“There is so much damage and neglect. It’s a huge risk for the tenants in terms of fire and life safety issues; not just for them but for anyone who goes inside,” Sven Pearson, Capital City Fire/Rescue Deputy Fire Marshal, said. “People shouldn’t have to live this way. It’s unsanitary. It’s dangerous. People deserve to live better.”
According to the city, health and safety hazards within the public areas and basement include an inoperable sprinkler system, a gaping hole in the roof, lack of heat and hot water, inadequate restrooms, exposed wiring, broken windows and unsuitable emergency exit doors.
In October 2016, the City and Borough of Juneau and CCFR issued letters to Bergmann Hotel owner Kathleen Barrett and building staff citing multiple code violations and details on how to make corrections, Phu said in the press release. Building management originally had until Nov. 18, 2016, to become compliant. At Barrett’s request, the deadline was extended to the end of February 2017. Inspections in March revealed few corrections and several new violations.
“We’ve been generous with giving an extension and keeping an eye on the place. This was not an overnight decision; we’ve been trying to work with them for a long time,” CBJ Building Codes Official Charlie Ford said.
According to Ford, he did note during a walk-through Friday that some sheetrock repair had been done and the toilets were operable.
But the hole in the roof remained, along with issues with the boiler, including carbon monoxide detected in the boiler room.
“We couldn’t find any hot water in any of the sinks,” Ford said.
“What pushed us over the edge was the sprinklers,” he said, explaining that the broken skylight caused a pipe to freeze, which damaged a sprinkler head.
The sprinkler system, which Bergmann staff say has been fixed, has not been certified since November 2015, Ford said.
“We had been putting (this process) off because we were all hoping for the best,” he said.
Under Title 19, CBJ’s building and fire code, the city requires property owners to abate public health and safety hazards.
“When the hazards on the property are so extreme that it represents an imminent danger to health and safety, we have the authority under Title 19 to require the building be evacuated,” City Attorney Amy Mead said.
The violations must be corrected before the building can be deemed safe for human occupancy; the order can be appealed within 20 days of when it was issued.
Through Tuesday morning, The Salvation Army will operate a low-barrier warming center for a handful of Bergmann tenants. They are in need of donations, however; to donate, go online to http://juneau.salvationarmy.org/.
• Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 523-2246 or email@example.com.